It was the first Monday of May, and no, I’m not talking about the MET Ball. I had gotten to the end of my birth control pack and realized I had forgotten to order a new one. Instead of trying to get my hands on one that day, I waited until the following morning to start a new month. Foolishly, I didn’t think to take two pills to account for the previous day’s lost estrogen. Boy, did things go left, and fast.
A little backstory: I’ve been taking oral birth control (microgrestrin 1.5/30) for the last three years for endometriosis pain—specifically related to endometriomas (large cysts) on my ovaries. I take birth control pills back-to-back, skipping the placebo weeks to avoid any endometrial lining from shedding, which means I don’t get a period. It’s a short-term solution that’s worked for my very painful long-term problem.
Now, let’s talk about my skin. Within days of missing that dose of estrogen, I immediately noticed five inflamed and/or cystic breakouts around my chin and jawline. Face mapping and my general knowledge of skincare told me this area was definitely hormone-related. I ran to get the breakouts injected with Kenalog, a popular steroid used to decrease the size of cystic breakouts within 24 hours. I would only ever do this again in a seriously desperate situation—for example, if it was my wedding day, or I knew that I was about to meet Judge Judy (my idol).
Not only did my skin atrophy and get divots from the Kenalog injections, but the scar-looking marks also stayed on my chin for three months, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was still breaking out like crazy all month long, and I didn’t know what to do. I had never remembered my skin being that bad and the post-inflammatory erythema (PIE), also known as the pesky red marks that stay on your skin after a break-out has come and gone, was becoming unbearable. I was scouring for a solution to my hormonal imbalance. A Chinese acupuncturist told me to start eating steamed broccoli and cauliflower for my hormones. Because I google everything, I decided to research why she recommended those vegetables.
That’s when I learned about Indole 3-Carbinol/DIM, and my life changed.
Indole 3-Carbinol, also known as I3C, is a naturally-resulting compound that comes from eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It’s known to stimulate detoxifying enzymes in the gut and liver, and most importantly, it regulates estrogen and androgen. Taken as a supplement, I3C studies are increasingly showing its strength in preventing the development of estrogen-enhanced cancers, like breast, endometrial, and cervical cancer.
I3C is the pre-cursor to DIM. DIM is formed naturally in the body when I3C is digested and metabolized in the gut. I used to take DIM supplements; now I take I3C because it’s the only form of the compound that my favorite and most-trusted supplement brand makes.
While the term “hormonal acne” is not used in medical journals or scientific research, hormones’ effects on acne development have been written about. Specifically, that estrogen influences an increase in sebum formation, and that estrogen has an effect on the pathology of acne.
Although there are no official scientific studies at all analyzing I3C or DIM’s effects on acne, there are multiple medical journals in addition to the ones I referenced here about how I3C and DIM can regulate estrogen. Also, the internet is littered with testimonials and editorials of women who have sworn by I3C/DIM to cure their hormonal breakouts, and now I’m one of them. Not only has it helped me with hormonal breakouts, it’s helped dozens of my friends too, and many of them have reported that all of their PMS-related symptoms, like breast tenderness and bloating, have also gone away.
I take two vitamins a day, once in the morning and once at night, and I’ve never had a single hormonal breakout since starting this regimen. If you’re struggling with hormonal acne, I recommend trying one of these I3C/DIM supplements: